Managing the PLA’s Military Diplomacy: Key Institutions and Personnel

Publication: China Brief Volume: 22 Issue: 21

PLA and African Military Representatives at the First China-Africa Peace and Security Forum in Beijing in 2019, note the PLA participants are wearing OIMC arm patches (source: PLA Daily)


The People’s Liberation Army’s (PLA) status as the armed forces of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is particularly manifest in its handling of military diplomacy. This article examines the background and evolution of the Office of International Military Cooperation (OIMC)—the main Central Military Commission (CMC) organization responsible for managing and coordinating PLA relationships with foreign militaries. In addition, the piece examines and contextualizes the roles of the Joint Staff Department and the Minister of National Defense in military diplomacy. In examining the main PLA military diplomacy actors, this article builds on Kenneth Allen’s recent China Brief series, “The PLA’s Military Diplomacy in Advance of the 20th Party Congress,” which overviewed recent senior-level engagements as well as specific areas of cooperation between the PLA and foreign forces (China Brief, September 9; October 4).

A Brief History

The PLA’s Foreign Affairs Office originated in 1951 when the CCP’s CMC created a subordinate Foreign Liaison Division. [1] After the Ministry of National Defense (MND) was formed in 1954, the PLA used this office as a base to establish a subordinate Foreign Affairs Office (FAO; 外事办公室, waishi banggongshi) in 1955 that received dual guidance from the General Staff Department (GSD) Intelligence (Second) Department and the MND General Office (办公厅, bangongting). In 1959, the FAO was placed solely under the MND’s General Office. In January 1964, the office expanded to become the Foreign Affairs Bureau (FAB; 外事局, waishi ju) under the General Office. The bureau created a subordinate General Office (办公室) and three numbered divisions: 1st Division (一处, yi chu) : Military Attachés (武官, wuguan); 2nd Division: Military Assistance (军援, junyuan); and 3rd Division: Research (调研, diaoyan). In 1965, the bureau was re-subordinated under the GSD, where it underwent unidentified organizational adjustments. From then on, the GSD Foreign Affairs Bureau and MND Foreign Affairs Bureau were dual hatted with MND’s FAB providing a veneer for GSD activities.

In December 1998, both the GSD and MND changed the name of the Foreign Affairs Bureau to the Foreign Affairs Office. [2] Besides the name change, the new office was also upgraded to a corps leader-grade organization, which allowed it to deal with the GSD’s Second Department and the GSD Foreign Affairs Office’s counterpart in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs as an equal. The GSD / MND Foreign Affairs Office included the following subordinate organizations: Political Department (政治部; zhengzhi bu), Comprehensive Bureau (综合局, zonghe ju), Arms Control and Military Assistance Bureau (军控军援局, junkong junyuan ju), Asia Bureau (亚洲局, yazhou ju), Eurasian Bureau (欧亚局, Ouya ju), Americas and Oceania Bureau (美洲大洋洲局, meizhou dayangzhou ju), and West Asia and Africa Bureau (西亚非洲局, xiya feizhou ju), as well as some other unidentified bureaus (Tsinghua University, Center for International Security and Strategy;, June 25, 2013).

Impact of 2016 Reforms

On January 11, 2016, the CMC underwent a reorganization from a General Headquarters System (总部制) to a Multi-Department System (多部门制) in which four General Departments were transformed into 15 organizations (State Council Information Office [SCIO], July 24, 2019). This systemic reorganization, under which the new departments, commissions and offices are to operate as the staff, executive, and service organs of the CMC, aimed to foster centralized and unified leadership; strengthen the top military leadership body’s coordination functions; improve its capacity for strategic planning and overall management; and, strengthen restraint and supervision. As a result of these reforms, the Foreign Affairs Office was not only renamed to the Office for International Military Coordination (OIMC;  国际军事合作办公室, guoji junshi hezuo bangongshi), but was also elevated into the CMC’s new Multi-Department Organization System to become the 13th ranked department in protocol order, which is the equivalent grade to a corps leader (Huanqiu, January 11, 2016; Guancha, February 1, 2016). Concurrently, these reforms also abolished the former GSD Foreign Affairs Office (Takungpao, January 12, 2016). According to the official MND website: “the office is mainly responsible for foreign military exchanges and cooperation, and for managing and coordinating the foreign affairs work of the whole military” (MND). The arm patch for the office is shown below.

Despite the CMC OIMC’s recent origins, the exact link between it and the State Council MND office of the same name is unclear. However, it appears, these are the same organization with two different names. Specifically, various articles in 2016 noted that there was a CMC OIMC (中央军委国际军事合作办公室, Zhongyang junwei guoji junshì hezuo bangongshì) and an MND OIMC (国防部国际军事合作办公室, guofang bu junwei guoji junshì hezuo bangongshì), which were considered “one department with two brands” (一个部门两个牌子, yige bumen liangge paizi) (Huanqiu, January 11, 2016; Shangguan News, April 16, 2016).  A reference to the MND OIMC was found as late as last December (PLA NDU International College of Defence Studies, December  24, 2021).

This is consistent with the November 2012 adoption of the “Working Rules of the Central Military Commission,” which stipulated a “CMC Chairman Responsibility System” that was later included in the revisions to the CCP constitution that were adopted at the 19th Party Congress in 2017 (PLA Daily, March 16, 2021). A seemingly new feature of the updated responsibility system is charging the Minster of National Defense with providing oversight of OIMC activities to the CMC. Based on the 2018 “deepening the reform plan of party and state institutions,” the Minister of Defense now sits on the CCP Foreign Affairs Work Commission as the sole uniformed PLA representative and coordinates with other state organs on foreign affairs through MND and the dual-hatted OIMC.

2021 Regulations on International Military Cooperation Work

The adoption of  the “Military Strategic Guidelines for a New Era” conveyed in the People’s Republic of China’s (PRC) 2019 white paper on “China’s National Defense in the New Era,” not only expanded defense aims to include safeguarding overseas interests, but also affirmed the need to “actively develop constructive relationships with foreign militaries” that would require “a new configuration of foreign military relations which is all-dimensional, wide-ranging and multi-tiered is taking shape” (SCIO, July 24, 2019). Demands for greater participation in global and regional security governance, expansion of bilateral defense partnerships, efforts to settle disputes over territory and maritime demarcation through negotiation and consultation, and increased security cooperation activities combine to levy twofold requirements on the international military cooperation activities of the PLA. First, the PLA must refine relevant mechanisms for protecting China’s overseas interests and foreign affairs. Second, the PLA must establish and improve “system coordination” (体系统筹) functions of the OIMC consistent with the overarching “Socialist Military Policy System (system of systems) with Chinese Characteristics” (中国特色社会主义军事政策制度体系, zhongguo tese shehui zhuyi junshi zhengce zhidu tixi) that orchestrates all PLA systems as well as with other foreign affairs systems of China’s governance. [3]

After years in development, Xi signed an order as CMC Chairman issuing the “Regulations on International Military Cooperation” (国际军事合作工作条例, guoji junshi hezuo gongzuo tiaoli), which came into force on March 1, 2021 (PLA Daily, March 16, 2021). The regulations not only provide fundamental guidelines for international military cooperation consistent with Xi Jinping’s “Thinking on Strengthening the Armed Forces,” which are part of the broader effort to build a world-class military, they also seek to apply to Xi’s “Holistic National Security Concept” and expedite his strategic foreign policy aim to create a “community with a shared future for mankind.” The regulations also steer OIMC adaptation of the 2019 strategic guidelines for the “new era” and seek to implement specific steps for the reform and deployment of national defense and the military. A core feature of the regulations, which is consistent with the deepening reforms of the PRC’s national defense and the military systems since 2016, is the direction for OIMC to further “improve the working system and mechanism of international military cooperation in accordance with the leadership and management system established by the reform of national defense and the military, strengthen strategic management and work guidance, improve the work system, and clarify the responsibility interface of each unit in the work of international military cooperation” (PLA Daily, March 16, 2021).

In concert with the other PLA and foreign policy reforms undertaken since 2016, the regulations establish the importance that international military cooperation and the OIMC must function within the PLA, the Party and China’s overall foreign affairs, national defense and military construction, which all contribute to enhancing the PRC’s overall international influence. The regulations specify the main tasks and preliminarily establish a framework, which covers all aspects of CMC-led international military cooperation. Moreover, the regulations establish an “International Military Cooperation Leadership and Management System,” which is internal to China’s armed forces (both the PLA and the PAP), in order to regulate horizontal coordination and to vertically divide the OIMC’s responsibilities and implementation processes to foster overall synergy of effort. The regulations also established a “Military Cooperation Work Inspection and Evaluation System” to conduct assessments, inspections, and evaluations, which aim to improve the overall efficiency and level of international military cooperation.

OIMC Organizational Structure

So far, only a few organizations have been identified as being subordinate to the OIMC, including the Eurasian Bureau (欧亚局, Ouya ju), the Security Center or Security Cooperation Center (安全合作中心, anquan hezuo zhongxin), which is linked to China’s peacekeeping activities and is usually identified as belonging to the MND OIMC, and the Arms Control and Compliance Affairs Office (军控和履约事务办公室,jun kong he luyue shiwu bangongshi), which has a subordinate Compliance Affairs Bureau (履约事务局, luyue shiwu ju) responsible for overseeing China’s Chemical Warfare treaty participation requirements (, October 19, 2017; PRC Embassy in the Netherlands, September 19; People’s Daily, January 27, 2017). The OIMC also has a Comprehensive Bureau, Asia Bureau and Americas and Oceanian Affairs Bureau. It most likely has several other regional bureaus that correlate to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ regional departments for Asian Affairs; West Asian and North African Affairs; African Affairs; European-Central Asian Affairs; European Affairs; North American and Oceanian Affairs; and Latin American and Caribbean Affairs (FMPRC).

OIMC Leadership

The following personnel have been identified as the directors (主任,zhuren) for the OIMC starting in 2016, each of whom spent most of their career involved in military diplomacy. Each head of OIMC had held the grade of corps leader.

  • 2016–2017: Navy Rear Admiral Guan Youfei (关友飞), who worked in various billets in the GSD and MND Foreign Affairs Office starting in the early 2000s (The Paper, January 15, 2016).
  • 2017–2018: Army Major General Hu Changming (胡昌明), who served most of his career in the GSD foreign affairs structure to include working as the first attaché in the PRC Embassy in Tanzania in the early 2010s and as a Deputy Director of the OIMC from 2016 – 2017 (cn, November 22, 2017).
  • 2018–2022: Army Major General Ci Guowei (慈国巍). He previously served as the PRC Military Attaché in Kyrgyz Republic and then the Director of the GSD Foreign Affairs Office’s Eurasian Bureau. He then served as a Deputy Director of the MND Foreign Affairs Office and then as a Deputy Director of the OIMC before becoming the Director in 2018 (Huanqiu, December 27, 2018).

It appears that there have been at least four deputy directors (副主任,fuzhuren) of OIMC since 2016 as well, each of whom were a major general or rear admiral with the grade of corps deputy leader (Baike). There are normally at least two to three deputy directors at the same time. It is not clear who, besides Huang Xueping, is currently serving as a deputy.

  • 2016-December 2018: Major General Ci Guowei
  • 2016-2017: Major General Hu Changming
  • 2016-November 2017: Rear Admiral Li Ji (李际)
  • November 2017-2022: Major General Huang Xueping (黄雪平) (CCTV News Weibo, September 18).

CMC OIMC Military Diplomacy Activities

The MND’s English-language website catalogues 13 events involving the CMC OIMC from 2018 to 2022, which are listed below. An unexplained phenomenon, however, is what conditions spur publicization of meetings and other events since some routine official OIMC talks are published in one period but not on other occasions. [4] Of note, none of the articles identified the participants as from the MND OIMC, nor did they mention any participation by JSD representatives.

  • On April 18, 2018, the Sasakawa Peace Foundation hosted a welcome reception for a delegation of colonel-level PLA officers (China Military Online [CMO], April 18, 2018). The visit was part of the defense exchange jointly hosted by the Sasakawa Peace Foundation, the Sasakawa Japan-China Friendship Fund and the China Institution for International Strategic Studies. As of the time of this reception, the two sides had facilitated exchanges involving about 130 Japan Self-Defense Forces (JSDF) officers and more than 200 PLA officers since the program was launched in 2001. However, mutual visits were suspended in February, 2012. Major General Ci Guowei, who was a deputy director of the CMC OIMC in 2018, led the 25-member delegation to Japan.
  • On November 21, 2018, the CMC OIMC invited foreign military attaches from nearly 60 countries to visit the MND’s peacekeeping center near Beijing (Xinhuanet, November 22, 2018). At that time, China had joined 24 peacekeeping operations, dispatching more than 36,000 personnel since the country first began participation in UN peacekeeping missions in 1990.
  • MND hosted the 2019 New Year Reception in Beijing on the evening of January 25 to celebrate the approaching Spring Festival, the traditional Chinese New Year (CMO, January 25, 2019). Over 240 foreign military attachés and their spouses, from more than 80 countries, attended the reception. State Councilor and Defense Minister General Wei Fenghe, and fellow CMC members General Li Zuocheng, Admiral Miao Hua and General Zhang Shengmin all attended the reception. The leader of the CMC OIMC delivered a speech on behalf of General Wei.
  • In July 2019, China’s MND hosted the first China-Africa Peace and Security Forum in Beijing (CMO, July 17, 2019). Representatives of the Chinese military and nearly 100 senior representatives from the defense departments of 50 African countries and the African Union, including 15 defense ministers and chiefs of general staff, attended the forum. CMC OIMC deputy director Major General Song Yanchao addressed the conference stating that: “In the face of new situations, the common languages, aspirations and interests of China and Africa in peace and security field have been increasing. Closer cooperation between the two sides is embracing new and precious historical opportunities.”
  • On October 20, 2020, a top officer of the CMC OIMC had a telephone conversation with a senior U.S. Department of Defense official (CMO, November 1, 2020). They exchanged in-depth views on the relationship between the two militaries and discussed issues of mutual concern. The two sides agreed to strengthen communication between the two militaries, properly manage differences and conduct cooperation in areas of common interest. From October 28 to 29, the two militaries virtually convened the first Crisis Communications Working Group to discuss concepts of crisis communications, crisis prevention and crisis management. In addition, the two sides decided to hold the 2020 Disaster Management Exchange via video conference in mid-November. Finally the two militaries agreed to hold a video conference for the Maritime Military Consultative Agreement dialogue before the end of 2020.
  • The 11th China-EU defense and security policy dialogue was held via video link on December 10, 2020 (CMO, December 11, 2020). The dialogue was co-chaired by the heads of the CMC OIMC and the EU’s Common Security and Defence Policy and Crisis Response at the European External Action Service (EEAS), which marked the 45th anniversary of the establishment of China-EU diplomatic ties.
  • The 18th ASEAN Regional Forum Security Policy Conference (ASPC) was held virtually on May 27, 2021. The participants exchanged views on international and regional issues, threats and challenges of emerging technologies to defense security, the buildup of mutual trust and development cooperation in the Asia-Pacific region, etc. (MND, May 31, 2021). The head of the CMC OIMC talked about China’s views on current international and regional landscapes. 2021 marked the 30th anniversary of the establishment of China-ASEAN dialogue relations.
  • On August 19, 2021, a leader of the CMC OIMC and U.S. deputy assistant secretary of defense (DASD) had a video conference (MND, October 9, 2021). On September 28 and 29, 2021, a leader of the CMC OIMC and a U.S. DASD held another video conference to co-chair the 16th China-U.S. Defense Policy Coordination Talks. During the two interactions, the two sides exchanged in-depth views on the relations between the two countries and two militaries, and on issues of common interest.
  • To mark the CCP’s 100th anniversary, the CMC OIMC organized a visit by military attachés from nearly 70 countries to the Museum of the CCP in Beijing (CMO, December 23, 2021). Interviews were also held with military attachés and international military students from 14 countries.
  • On February 25, 2022, the 12th China-EU dialogue on defense and security policy was held via videoconference (CMO, February 25). Leaders from the CMC OIMC and the Common Security and Defence Policy and Crisis Response department under the EEAS co-chaired the dialogue.
  • On March 16, 2022, the Security and Defense Sub-Committee of the China-Nigeria Inter-Governmental Committee convened its first meeting via video link (CMO, March 16). The meeting was co-chaired by leading CMC OIMC officials of and the Permanent Secretary of Nigeria’s Ministry of National Defense.
  • On April 29, 2022, the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) Defense Officials’ Dialogue video conference was held. China and Cambodia, the rotating chair of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) for 2022, co-hosted the conference (CMO, May 1). Leaders from the CMC OIMC and the General Department of Policy and Foreign Affairs under Cambodia’s Ministry of National Defense both delivered speeches.
  • On June 3, 2022, the CMC OIMC Director participated via video link in the 19th ASEAN Regional Forum Security Policy Conference (ASPC) in which the participants exchanged views on the regional and international issues (CMO, June 3).

Joint Staff Department Military Diplomacy Involvement

It is still not exactly clear how the current CMC Joint Staff Department (JSD), which replaced the GSD in 2016, is actively involved in managing military diplomacy. For example, as noted in “The PLA’s Military Diplomacy in Advance of the 20th Party Congress (Part 1)”, the PLA has always assigned the military diplomacy portfolio to one of the Deputy Chiefs of the former General Staff Department or current Joint Staff Department (China Brief, September 9). The current Deputy Chief of Staff with this portfolio since August 2017 is  Lieutenant General Shao Yuanming, who has the grade of Theater Command deputy leader.[5] The meetings he has chaired are listed below:

  • January 2018: China and Myanmar Diplomacy and Defense Consultations in Naypyidaw, Myanmar (Xinhuanet, January 17, 2018).
  • May 2018: China and Russia 20th round of strategic consultation in Beijing (CMO, May 30, 2018).
  • September 2018: China and Russia “Vostok-2018” strategic joint military exercise at the Tsugol training range in Russia’s Trans-Baikal, where Shao was the PLA exercise director (CMO, September 14, 2018).
  • April 2021: China and Vietnam 10th Defense and Security Consultation in Dongxing, Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region (CMO, April 23, 2021).
  • September 2021: China and Singapore 8th Defense Policy Dialogue via video link (MND, September 15, 2021).
  • January 2022: China and France 16th China-France Defense Strategy Consultation via video link (MND, January 13).
  • January 2022: China and United Kingdom 8th Defense Strategy Consultation via video link (CMO, January 12).

A New Defense Minister in 2023

Although the Central Military Commission (CMC) had several different names from 1925-1954, it served the same basic functions.[6] The official name of the Central Military Commission (CMC) today is the Military Commission of the Central Committee ( 中央军事委员会, Zhongyang junshi weiyuanhui or 中央军委, zhongyang junwei) of the CCP.  Although the Chinese term for the CMC has remained consistent since its creation, the English translation has changed over the years. In the 1960s and 1970s, the commission was commonly referred to as the Military Affairs Commission (MAC).

Under the CCP’s 1982 constitution, a state CMC was appointed by the National People’s Congress (NPC), which is institutionally co-equal to the PRC’s executive branch, the State Council. However, since its establishment, the State CMC and the CCP CMC have consisted of the same personnel, except for during the present, twice-a-decade period between a Party Congress and the next year’s National People’s Congress (NPC). During such transitions, the personnel who departed the CCP CMC following a Congress remain on the State CMC until their replacement at the NPC the following year.

Following the 20th Party Congress, the new Central Committee selected a new Party CMC, including two Vice Chairmen and four Members (People’s Daily, October 24). As noted, the State CMC will remain in place until the 14th NPC is seated in early 2023. As such, Wei Fenghe will remain as the Defense Minister and State Councilor until the NPC approves the Party CMC Vice Chairmen and Members to replace the current State CMC. The person who will replace Wei as the Defense Minister and State Councilor is General Li Shangfu (李尚福), a career Army officer with a focus on satellites, space, and weapons development (Ifeng, September 18). He received a bachelor’s degree in 1982 from the PLA’s National University of Science and Technology (NUDT) and a master’s degree from the Chongqing University School of Automation. There are no indications that he has any military diplomacy experience. 


In concert with sweeping organizational, systemic, and functional reforms of the PLA since 2015, renaming the GSD / MND Foreign Affairs Office as the Office of International Military Cooperation (OIMC) signifies a more transformational change in its role within the CMC. The OIMC plays this role in two ways. First, the OIMC serves as a center to coordinate the institutional alignment of the military diplomacy activity of the PLA/PAP with the PRC’s broader foreign policy actions. Second, the OIMC seeks to manage the projection of external influence as an important manifestation of military soft power and to set favorable conditions for crisis and, if necessary, conflict.

As specified in the 2019 white paper “China’s National Defense in the New Era” and the 2021 “Regulations on International Military Cooperation,” OIMC will improve its leadership and management system for international military cooperation to “regulate the responsibilities of various tasks horizontally and divide the responsibilities of the organization and implementation process vertically” to achieve an “overall synergy” for the CMC (PLA Daily, March 16, 2021). Externally, OIMC will seek to “deepen bilateral and multilateral security cooperation, promote a coordinated, inclusive and complementary cooperation among security mechanisms, and contribute to a security architecture featuring equality, mutual trust, fairness, justice, joint contribution and shared benefits” that will both complement and compete with existing international defense mechanisms and dialogues (SCIO, July 24, 2019).

As U.S.-China systemic rivalry intensifies and as competition within the relationship increases, OIMC will serve as a fundamental vehicle to adapt to the developing international situation and promote China’s foreign and defense policy initiatives. The record show increases in China’s international defense cooperation activity, new forums and mechanisms for dialogues, and a concerted effort to reshape international military discourse advantageous to China. Construction of new China-led defense mechanisms and strengthening military discourse capacities serves to enhance military soft power and the “discourse dilemma” characterized as a critical gap in China’s defense diplomacy (, May 26, 2021). The aim to build China’s so-called “military discourse power” (军事话语权, junshi huayuquan) in order to contend with the “Western-dominated discourse system” and strengthen the military discourse capabilities necessary for effectively shaping the situation to manage and control crises, contain wars, and win wars (Study Times, September 20, 2017).

Yet, PLA military diplomacy management is likely to face prolonged challenges as tensions with the U.S. and other nations will remain an enduring feature of the international environment for the foreseeable future. The shift from the simple defense engagement of the past to a more active diplomatic posture faces new challenges amidst intensifying strategic competition. Combined with expanding PLA military deployments, overseas interests and basing, and concerns with PLA modernization, OIMC will find it difficult to navigate the need to promote defense interests while sustaining stable relations, especially when the latter is often sacrificed by Beijing as a symbol of strategic dissatisfaction, rather than viewed as a vital source of crisis prevention or conflict avoidance. Recent examples include the diplomatic instability leading to the U.S. cancellation of agreed-to defense contacts and exchanges at the beginning of the Biden Administration; and Beijing canceling phone calls, the Defense Policy Coordination Talks, and an operational safety meeting under the Military Maritime Consultative Agreement (South China Morning Post, October 28; Guancha, August 8).

One issue exacerbating already strained U.S.-China defense relations is that General Li Shangfu, who is expected to be the next Defense Minister, was sanctioned by the U.S. in 2018 under the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act, which adds yet another obstacle to routine diplomatic contacts and exchanges with the PLA’s senior uniformed diplomat (U.S. Office of Foreign Assets Control, September 20, 2018).

Despite the challenges facing China’s military diplomacy, the maturation of the OIMC’s role and further codification of China’s international military cooperation may generate renewed capacities to manage diplomatic activities in order to stabilize key relationships and better avoid grave risk.

The early prospects for China’s military to make this shift are promising in concept but entirely inadequate in practice. It will not be enough to improve internal processes to better align international cooperation, particularly because China can no longer rely on foreign diplomatic counterparts to design and sponsor mechanisms for stable military diplomacy, particularly in terms of crisis management. PLA military diplomacy management will have to accept responsibility and acknowledge it is in China’s interest to sustain stable relations and prioritize escalation avoidance even when friction arises.

Kenneth W. Allen is a retired U.S. Air Force officer, whose extensive service abroad includes a tour in China as the Assistant Air Attaché. He was the former research director of U.S. Air Force’s China Aerospace Studies Institute (CASI) from 2017 through 2019.

Chad Sbragia is a Research Staff Member at the Institute for Defense Analyses. He was the inaugural Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for China and previously served as the Director of the China Research Group for the U.S. Marine Corps. He also served the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command as the Acting Director of the China Strategic Focus Group and as the Country Director for China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Mongolia. Mr. Sbragia served in the U.S. Marine Corps from 1985-2012, including an assignment as the U.S. Marine Attaché within the U.S. Embassy Beijing.

Editor’s Note: This piece exceeds the standard length for China Brief articles, but is being published due to reader interest.


[1] See Kenneth W. Allen, Christopher Clarke, John Corbett, and Lonnie Henley. “China’s Defense Minister and Ministry of National Defense,” in Kevin Pollpeter and Kenneth W. Allen, eds., The PLA as Organization v2.0.(Vienna, VA: Defense Group Inc., 2015).

[2] See Alice Miller, “The Central Military Commission,” in Kevin Pollpeter and Kenneth W. Allen, eds., The PLA as Organization v2.0., (Vienna, VA: Defense Group Inc., 2015).

[3] The Military Policy System was the most prominent change unveiled in the 2019 Defense White Paper (see SCIO, July 24, 2019). At the CMC’s Work Conference on Policy and System Reform held in Beijing on July 13-14, Xi stressed “the military policy system regulates military relations, standardizes military practice, and guarantees military development; and the reform of military policies and systems is of great significance to realizing the party’s goal of strengthening the military in the new era and building the people’s army into a world-class military in an all-round way, and to realizing the goal of the “two hundred years” struggle and realizing the Chinese dream of the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation.” The application of systems design as a structural form is not new but has clearly accelerated during Xi’s tenure as reflected in the 19th Central Committee’s  fourth Plenary Session, which includes extensive development of systems architecture within the PLA (Xinhuanet, October 31, 2019)

[4] For example, U.S. and PRC defense officials met in Beijing on January 14, 2020, for the 15th U.S.-China Defense Policy Coordination Talks, which the PLA chose not to list on the MND website or address during the MND’s regular monthly press conference (U.S. Department of Defense, January 16, 2020).

[5] Of note, prior to 2018, all deputy chiefs of the General/Joint Staff had the grade of Military Region/Theater Command leader; however, they were all downgraded in 2018 as part of the PLA’s reorganization.

[6] See Miller, “The Central Military Commission.”